Which Karma Seeds?

by Penda Nyota

Two of the more belligerent residents indulged in a loud dispute in the lobby behind where Charity held the door open for the Medical Examiners.

Something about fruit.

Both were, Charity realized, at least four decades closer to the current state of the very recently departed Mr. Chavis, than she. They should show more respect! It could've been one of them that Charity had found slumped, rigid, over half-unpacked boxes. It wasn't like they didn't know ... bad news traveled in this building faster than mall-bound teens.

Pretending to ignore them, Charity struggled to hold together the few remaining tatters of her professional, public pleasantness, as she strode past the fruit contenders to call down the freight elevator. She stepped aside, giving the body-haulers room to maneuver the gumey onto the elevator, then joined them there. She pressed button number four. As the doors closed, Charity glared her displeasure at the squabbling seniors.

They were too busy bickering to notice.


Mr. Tristan Chavis had moved into the Lexington Seniors Apartments on Charity Bolder's first day back from a two-week suspension. Smiling vacantly, the ninety-pluser accepted Charity's introduction by the building manager. He was a wrinkly coal black and of medium height. He had unruly, jet-white, wavy hair that showed that he was a mixture of a variety of somethings. And, he was skinny. Not slight, not lean. Straight-up skinny, as if somebody had painted his skeleton black. He reminded Charity of a lost, sick puppy.

Charity was not in the mood to babysit any more grown folks, especially after she'd already lost two weeks pay for missing work while trying to find and settle down her 19-year-old daughter, Chastity.

But, when five minutes after their introduction, he returned to the office, embarrassed about not having been able to find the elevators, Charity knew she was in trouble. The compulsion's familiar twinges pinched at her. The need grew stronger, shouted louder. A billion years ago, when Chastity still spoke civilly to her mother, the woman-child had named the dreaded Beast.

Mommy Mode.

"Here, Mr. Chavis. Let me help you."



Mr. Chavis had said that he really liked bananas.

When she'd walked him back to his new apartment, Charity gave into her urges and got into his business.

Good thing, too. Sproule/Nyota Karma Seeds 3 of 6

The movers hadn't unpacked any of his things, and there was hardly any food in the fridge. Mr. Chavis had pulled out a few necessities, himself. Even if the movers hadn't been contracted to unpack for him (though Charity was pretty sure they had been), what kind of useless, 3-legs would leave a ninety-year-old in an apartment full of boxes and consider the job done?

Somebody's ears were gonna bum for this!

And Charity was still fully fury fueled from her fight with Chastity about the child's decision to shack up with that boy!

But ... first things first! Charity "asked" the manager if she could take her lunch early, so she could pick up some food for Mr. Chavis, on account that he didn't have any.

The manager agreed, pulling his files to find a family member to come check on him. The maintenance guys volunteered to go up and unpack for him. That settled, she left for the store.

Rabble-rousing was a skill at which Charity was an Adept.

She was tempted to do a major shop-out, but managed to contain herself to just enough to get him through the weekend. Including manual can openers, of course ... just in case. When she returned and knocked on his door, she was congratulating herself for only getting four bags of necessities.

No answer.

Charity knocked again, harder.

"Mr. Chavis? It's Charity, the secretary."

Still, no answer.

Irritated, she went back to the office to see if he was back down there. He wasn't, none of the others had seen him since the guys had stopped for lunch and left his apartment and he didn't have a phone yet for them to call him.


She got the master key and, with Joe, one of the maintenance guys, went up to check on their newest tenant.

She knocked and called.

He knocked and called.

Then, they opened the door.


Even after all the excitement had died down, and it was almost time to escape home, the smell of hot, rotting meat was staying with her. It was not unlike the stink that would sometimes assault her as she entered one of the neighborhood markets; the one with several luxury cars safely parked in razor crowned cages behind the store.

As if having impatiently awaited her return, the phone rang ... her personal line. Hope flared! Maybe Chastity had come to her senses and was ready to come home!

"Good afternoon. Lexington Seniors Apartments," she said, all the time marveling at how calm she sounded. "How may I help you?"

The cheerful reply: "We'd like to give you a free trial..."

"This is a business phone! Please don't call back!"

She slammed down the receiver; massaged both stinging eyes with palm-heels. Silently, Charity recited her family mantra: Strong, Black women NEVER cry! We can run and hide, duck and cover, fuss and cuss, stomp and scream, fight and fight (and right!) or walk away. Aside from making your face swell and your eyes red, crying accomplishes nothing! STRONG BLACK WOMEN NEVER CRY!!

So decreed her mother, and her mother's mother.

Amen and amen.

"Gotta do something!"

She retrieved the receiver, stabbing in the number.

Several rings, then: "Talk to me."

Charity took a deep breath, intended a sigh, got what sounded suspiciously like a sob.


"Cuz! What I can do you out oP"

"Chastity moved out."



"'Bout time."

"Need a favor..."


"Come change my locks?"

Raytheon silent said more to Charity than fifty other guys "filler-blustering."

Finally: "You sure?"

"No,..." another sob threatened, but she grabbed it and beat it down before she could be embarrassed, again, "... but, I'm still gonna."

"Be at your place right after work."

"Don't you have to stop and get the new locks?"

"Been done. Later."

Ah ... Ray-Ray.

"Can't fix everything," Charity finally admitted to herself "Time to grow up, Chastity...for both of us."

Which Karma Seeds? by Penda Nyota

© Copyright 2001. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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